Portugal's Douro Valley Guide

If you’ve made a trip to Porto and climbed the Clerigos Tower, you may have found yourself fantasizing about the wonders that exist further up the Douro River in the Douro Valley.

Famous for wine and breathtaking views, there is lots to discover and explore in there Douro River Valley.

Here are some of our favorite things to do in the region:

Get Active

For people who not content with a quiet getaway and would rather get the blood pumping with something more adventurous, the Douro Valley has plenty to offer.


Go Cycling

One of the best ways to see the Douro Valley is by bicycle. You can get up close and personal with some of the challenging trails while taking in the stunning views of the river and terraces that make up this landscape. You can even regroup by stopping at some of the wineries for a wine tasting and tour of the vineyards and cellar.

For something even more challenging, head north to the Peneda-Gerês Natural Park on the border with Spain. With mountain roads and trails, even the most experienced mountain biker will be pushed. But, the views will be worth it!
 


Go Kayaking

Kayaking is another interesting way to take in the countryside. If you are staying at one of the estates in the region, it may be possible to rent kayaks from them or you can contact a company like Douro Kayak who offer multi-day kayak itineraries.



Take a Helicopter Ride

That’s right, one of the best ways to see the grapevine terraces, appreciate the stunning landscapes and architecture of the Douro River Valley is by air!

A helicopter tour can also be one of the quickest ways to take in the sights so if you are short on time, this may be the most viable option.

The helicopter tours will leave from Porto and can range in length between 20-45 minutes. These tours will take in the most popular locations but it is also possible to custom build a ride to suit your interests and needs.

Of course, renting a helicopter is not cheap so make sure you work this into your budget from the beginning!



Take the Train

Over 130 years ago, a rail line was opened that ran from Porto, through the Douro Valley, and into Spain.    

For a truly unique experience, travel by steam engine along the Douro line. You can take a train ride from the Sao Bento Train Station in Porto and switch to the Douro line in Regua. This particular line follows the rivers so if you want to get the best view, make sure you are on the right side of the train!

In the summer months, you can take a traditional steam engine between Regua and Tua. This ride serves drinks and has onboard entertainment. It’s an amazingly fun time if you are in the area at the right time.



Tour the Vineyards

You really can’t visit the Douro Valley without taking some time to visit and tour the actual wine region.

For hundreds of years, fortified port wines have been produced in the region. From Porto, it is easy to book a day tour that will include stops at a few different producers, with tastings and a tour of the wine cellar and other facilities. 

Typically your wine tasting will allow you to sample a ruby, a tawny, and a white port as well as one of the vintages.

Many times these day trips will include a tour of the vineyards but if you aren’t sure, and would like to see the terraced vineyards up close, ask when booking your day trip. It is always important to call and book ahead when planning to see the vineyards. Most estates are happy to take you out to see the grapes but will only do it if arrangements are made in advance.


If you are in the Douro wine region during the month of September, you have the chance to actually get involved in the production process! The harvest usually begins in September and many of the vineyards will let tourists participate!


But, if you don’t want to spend your holiday performing backbreaking labor, try to get in on the grape stomp! Instead of being put through machines, the grapes are crushed by foot in a large vat. To give this a try, be sure to contact the vineyards to find out when their harvest might be taking place and then try to time your trip accordingly.



Harvest Olives

The region’s olive harvest happens annually between December and February and you may be able to help!

The majority of the crop ends up being used to make olive oil but some of the olives are there to eat and enjoy.

Tours to the olive groves can be booked from Porto. You can watch the harvest, participate, and sample the fruit. Does it get any better than that?



Rent a Car and Drive

One of the best ways to see this UNESCO World Heritage-listed region is by car, at your own pace.

The 17 miles of highway that stretches between Peso de Regua and Pinhao was named the best driving road in the world by Avis in 2015.

The roads are narrow, the turns sharp, and the drop-offs steep, but views you get from the various designated viewpoints along the way are more than worth it.

Give yourself lots of time, odds are you will come across more to see than you had ever imagined. Visit some of the towns and villages along the route. Sometimes the best part of a vacation is the part you don’t plan.


Stop in Ucanha to see one of the first medieval tolls in Portugal. The tower that sets at the end of a bridge was once used by monks to control who entered the village. Today, the tower has interesting exhibits you can check out if you want to learn more.


Visit the sanctuary of Our Lady of Remedies in the town of Lamego (can you climb the 600 steps to the top?) or the Monastic garden built on top of the ruins of the Monastery of São João de Tarouca -- be sure to buy some edible flowers and herbs while you’re there!


For true history buffs, pay a visit to The Côa Museum and the Côa Valley Archaeological Park. The museum features exhibits on the prehistoric rock art that is found in Archaeological Park which itself has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A guided tour of the museum will answer any questions you have the exhibits, the people who made the engravings, and the park itself.


Maybe you’ll take a spa day, or drive to Pinhao and stay at the incredible Vintage House Hotel, complete with outdoor pool and stunning views. Whatever you choose, a driving vacation means choosing your own adventure!



Visit Parque Natural do Douro Internacional

Forget Douro wine, forget taking a wine tour. Instead, get up close and personal with nature in this park that stretches 75 miles along the Rio Douro. Take a boat through the park and witness panoramic views of the stunning landscape.


It is also possible to drive through the park or take one of the many hiking trails. Simply purchase a map at the park office and you’re all set.

This park is home to 170 bird species including peregrine falcons and eagles so keep your eyes on the sky as well as the ravines!



Take a River Cruise

Once upon a time the Douro River was a busy channel, being used transport goods, particularly port wine, from the vineyards to the cellars of Porto via Rabelo boat. These Rabelo boats now are more likely to be seen carrying tourists instead.


The Douro river is full of boat tour options. Boats range in size and cruise range in duration. Depending on your itinerary, you have a few options in terms of a starting point as well. You can take a cruise from Porto or hop on a boat in Pinhao.

Typical short cruises run between 1 to 2 hours giving you plenty of time to do a wine tasting or visit other sites in the region. If you have greater flexibility in terms of time, consider booking a multi-day boat trip so you can see the stars and experience moonlight on the river.


More than just a famous wine region, the Douro Valley has plenty of history, beauty, and adventure for any traveler! From restaurant recommendations to booking Douro River cruises, accommodation and more, we are here to help. Contact us today and together we will plan your perfect Douro Valley vacation!